Company chartered to develop the Rio Grande valley
On this day in 1905, the American Rio Grande Land and Irrigation Company received a charter from the state of Texas. In 1900 Benjamin Franklin Yoakum, manager of the Frisco railroad system, had developed a plan to extend the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway from Houston to Brownsville. He recognized the agricultural potential of the area and soon collected a group of St. Louis capitalists to form the American Rio Grande Land and Irrigation Company with a capital stock of $1.25 million. The main accomplishment of the company was integrating the development of irrigation, the coming of the railroad, the sale of farmland, and the establishment of the town of Mercedes. The first company office was a boxcar on a railroad siding; the second was a two-story building in Mercedes. The company built a settling basin, a pumping plant on the river, a canal, and an electrical plant in Mercedes in 1906-07. By 1920 the irrigation system consisted of three large canals, five pumping plants, reservoirs and settling basins, and extensive drainage works; in 1929 local farmers purchased the irrigation portion of the company.